A Travellerspoint blog

Peru

Piura to Puno

sunny 30 °C
View Honeymoon! on Steve-Kay's travel map.

The border crossing was one of the best yet - quick, easy and friendly.....It still took 2 hours longer than it should have though because of the driver´s constant food breaks - typical South America!

The first main place we stopped at was a tiny village on the coast called Huanchaco which was a fantastic place with a nice beach and a wicked restaurant serving huge sea-food platters for about £3 mmmmmmmm! The major thing to do there is surfing so we decided to try it out and had a lesson which was excellent - although we had to practice on the beach first which was embarrassing! We didn`t have our camera (obviously) so you`ll have to believe us that we did manage to stand up a good few times and we loved it!

There are some pre-Inca (1300AD) adobe ruins nearby which we visited called Chan Chan. They were in good condition so it was really interesting to see...

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There are some strange looking hairless dogs that hang around the site and apparently, because of their unusually high body temperature, they used to be used as portable heaters....Luckily it was warm when we went so we didn`t have to try it out!

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Next we went to Lima (the capital) and found a great family-run hostel in Miraflores which is the swanky neighbourhood near the beach. It´s also near to a big complex of restaurants and bars which was set upon the cliff overlooking the sea and was loooovely!...

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This is a lovely park which is an Olive Grove that the Spaniards planted a few hundred years ago (and the olives are still going strong and were being picked by the locals!)...

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The centre of Lima had more culture and history with some nice buildings and squares (it´s a bit on the dodgy side though so we preferred Miraflores)...

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Six hours further south we stopped at a place called Huacachina, a tiny place built around a lagoon and surrounded by enormous sand dunes.

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After lazing around the pool for a few hours we hired a couple of sandboards and struggled up the dunes to try them out. It was excellent and we even managed to squeeze onto one board a couple of times which was really funny!

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Next we went to Cuzco which is a stunning city.....

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A lot of the buildings are half Inca style and half Spanish colonial style because the Spaniards built on top of the hefty stone foundations that the Incas built - (they must be pretty sturdy because they´ve survived some pretty huge earthquakes over the years!)....

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Nearby is an old Inca city called 'Machu Picchu' which was rediscovered in 1911 - it´s built on the side of a mountain and is in incredible shape considering it was built almost 450 years ago! It cost us £75 each for transport and entrance fee though which is CRAZY money in Peru (we´ve since been told that it´s actually owned by an English company - typical)!!

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It really was incredible though and the setting is stunning. It`s huge and you can walk around the whole thing and into all the buildings which are practically intact....

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There are even a few Llamas wandering around for good measure....

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This one popped up from behind the wall and made us jump!...

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After a couple of nights stop-off in Puno, on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca.......

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........we sadly had to leave Peru after an incredible month, but were really excited to be going to Bolivia.........country number eight!

This is our travel-map so far.........

Posted by Steve-Kay 06:41 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Ecuador

Tulcàn to Loja

all seasons in one day 25 °C
View Honeymoon! on Steve-Kay's travel map.

YET ANOTHER painful border crossing!! Had to wait in a queue out in the cold for 5 hours, and when we finally got to the front they decided to just open up the doors and let everyone bundle in anyway!

A cheesy but well-positioned selfy...

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Our first proper stop was a town called Otavalo. We`d planned to stay there for about 3 days but ended up living with a local family and having Spanish lessons for a month! The teachers were brilliant - I played Spanish scrabble with my one and Steve`s one spoke a million words per second and corrected him mercilessly so they were well suited to each of us!

Steve at school....

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The family´s house was right on the main square so we had a great view of the HUGE market (which the town is famous for)....

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The family were amazingly welcoming and treated us like one of their own from the minute we arrived - introducing us to all of their relatives and friends, feeding us non-stop (that`s why we look chubbier than before!), helping us practice our Spanish and taking us to see the local sights.....

Peguche waterfall with Alfonso, Carmen-Elena and Nahomi.....

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Lake Cuicocha....

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This is the local animal market held every Saturday morning at 5am. There were people walking around holding live chickens upside down by the legs as if it was as normal as carrying a sainsburys shopping bag, and others with sacks full of Guinea Pigs (they eat them here) which you could see wriggling around!

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Teaching us to cook tostados (fried corn)....

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The food they made for us every day was excellent, BUT, one day they took us out for a meal to a chicken restaurant and ordered a family meal deal which (as always in Ecuador) included a soup starter. I was a bit worried because it looked like there was something 'different' in it, but I decided to be brave and started eating it anyway......little did I know that what was actually lurking in there was a CHICKEN`S HEAD aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! All of the soups had weird things in them and apparently I was the lucky one to get the head - even the kids were happily chomping away on the feet, yuk! The whole family thought it was hilarious though and told everyone that visited the house from then on!

On our last day with the family we bought the Señora a lovely bunch of flowers as a thankyou, UNFORTUNATELY, we then found out that she hates flowers because they signify death....oooops (maybe a bag of chicken heads would`ve been more appropriate!). It was really difficult to leave them after spending so much time there and we said a sad goodbye but promised to pop in next time we were in the neighbourhood!

Steve and Carmen (the Señora)....

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Next we went to the capital, Quito. We stayed in the Colonial Old Town which is very historic with lovely squares and colonial buildings....

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Some well-dressed buskers....

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There`s a great look-out point from a hill called 'Panecillo' (little bread loaf) and a huge statue of 'La Virgen de Quito'....

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There`s also an amazing view from the telefèrico (cable car) which goes up to 4100m (13,500 feet) and was freezing as you`d imagine....

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A few hours from Quito is ´Mitad del Mundo´ (middle of the world) which is on the equator...

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Quito`s New Town (also known as 'Gringolandia'!) was completely different to the Old Town - it was full of bars and restaurants and we loved it because we managed to get our first real curry in SIX MONTHS there! We spent a week and far too much money there before moving on to Baños a few hours south.

Baños is a pretty town surrounded by mountains and an active volcano (last major eruption was August 2006). There is a nice waterfall in the town which we saw the locals using to collect water and even saw one man having a shower under it (with shampoo and everything!)....well it was very refreshing.....

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The volcano is active so we went on a night tour to see the lava spewing out but it was so foggy we couldn`t see a thing and the journey was scary because the driver had to do a 3-point-turn on a skinny track with a sheer drop by the side of us - good job they gave us a strong local drink to calm our nerves!

Riobamba was our next stop to catch the 'Nariz del Diablo' (Devil`s Nose) train to Alausì. Most people sat on the roof but Steve didn`t want to because he was ill (with man flu), plus he said I`d just be complaining about being cold the whole time anyway (as if!)....

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The journey was stunning if a bit bumpy (we´re sure the wheels were square!!) but it was worth it....

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A view of Volcàn Chimborazo along the way.....

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After that we went to Cuenca, a city with cobblestone streets and pretty plazas....

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We stayed in a family-run hostel and the owner was really sweet - I was feeling poorly (Steve gave me his man-flu!) so she gave me some natural remedies and fresh oranges from her Dad`s farm to get me better! She wanted to take us to see the farm but we couldn`t wait around the extra few days until she was going unfortunately.

Our last stop in Ecuador was Vilcabamba, a gorgeous little village surrounded by mountains. It`s famous for having lots of inhabitants that live to over 100 years old - probably because it`s so chilled and peaceful, apart from all the cockerels (not sure if you can see them but there are about 10 lining the pavement!).....

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We found a fantastic self-contained cabin for US$10 per night with a lovely garden full of lemon trees....

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The weather was really hot so we used the pool in the hostel nearby to cool off.....

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We chilled out there for a week planning the rest of our trip, sunbathing and walking through the pretty countryside with the odd stop or two....

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We were tempted to stay longer (especially after being quoted US$150 for a month in the cabin) but we resisted because we had to get ourselves moving and onto Peru....................

Posted by Steve-Kay 08:11 Archived in Ecuador Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Colombia

Santa Marta to Ipiales

all seasons in one day
View Honeymoon! on Steve-Kay's travel map.

The border crossing was quite slow and painful, and when we eventually got across we had to get a bus into Santa Marta. Unfortunately, the driver forgot to tell us when we'd got there so we went too far and then got dumped by the side of the road in the rain! As luck would have it there was a policeman with a huge rifle standing opposite us though so we felt pretty safe, but it did irritate us somewhat after the poxy journey we'd had. It didn't take too long for us to catch a bus going back the other way, but then it got stopped at a military checkpoint and we all had to get out and have our passports checked/bags searched (and Steve got frisked!).....What a nice welcome to Colombia!!

After that bus and then another cab journey we got to Santa Marta and checked into the poshest looking hotel on the seafront - over our budget obviously but there was no way we were going to traipse around looking for a cheaper one after that journey! We had a nice swim in the pool and then enjoyed the view from our balcony at sunset....

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There are food stalls all along the sea front and we had some lovely pizza slices from one of them which were really cheap.....UNFORTUNATELY, we then spent the next week stuck in our room ill from food poisoning - thank god for cable TV is all I can say!! When we recovered enough to face the blistering Santa Marta heat (40 degrees during the day and 30 at night) we found a nice café nearby which sold the hugest smoothies/juices we´ve ever seen.....

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From there we went to Parque Nacional Tayrona. It was only a 40 minute bus journey to get there but the driver, like all South American bus drivers, still felt the need to take a 15 minute break in the middle of it! Once at the park you can hire a horse or donkey to carry you/your stuff to the beach but we decided to walk the 50 minute track, jumping over the streams of giant ants along the way. It's a really gorgeous place and well worth the effort - more like how we'd imagined the Caribbean coast to be....

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Cartagena was the place we'd really been looking forward to since we got to Colombia because we'd heard lots of good things about it, and it really was stunning. The historical centre inside the old city walls is full of gorgeous old buildings with balconies onto the street.....

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We found a cheap place to stay in the centre, in what can only be described as ´a love hotel´! It was actually fine.....although, before the room had been fumigated we did have 2 cockroaches in the loo which Steve had to catch in a cup and chuck out - uuurrrrgggghhhh!

It's an amazing city and full of history, which Steve absolutely loved.....

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From the top of the city wall we could see the modern part of town which is a complete contrast to the historical centre because it's a beach-front lined with high-rise hotels....

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After Cartagena we went to Medellin. When we arrived there was a big concert going on in the bus station and it was crammed full of people which made it difficult to manouevre through with our big backpacks! We found a taxi in the end who pretended to know where he was going, like they all do, but in fact didn't have the foggiest idea where our hostel was! When we finally got there they were chockablock because of all the people there for the Flower Festival, which is a major event in Medellin. Luckily (or not) they had one bed left. It was the bottom bed of a bunk bed which was shoved at the end of a corridor, behind a curtain and next to one of only two toilets that the 30-odd people in the hostel were using....We really must book ahead in future!

Anyway, Medellin was very nice and we went on the cable car that is actually a part of their metro system - It was built to connect the people living up in the hills with the city centre. It was excellent (if a bit bumpy) and went on for ages because the city is huuuuuge....

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We watched the flower parade but there were so many people we couldn't see much of it (plus, if I'm being honest, I didn't have the patience to stand around for hours to see a couple of flowers!). There were people sitting up in trees but we weren't quite up for that.

We couldn't handle that hostel for very long so we went to a more peaceful one in Manizales which is in the 'Coffee Region' of Colombia. We went on a tour to a coffee plantation nearby which was really nice. The guide was speaking Spanish, but luckily it was just us two so we could ask questions and Steve could translate the tricky bits for me. He took us all around and showed us how the coffee grows in berries on flowery trees. There were loads of pretty flowers growing around the plantation (so we saw what we'd missed in Medellin!) and bananas which our guide picked for us as a snack. They also gave us these hats, I quite liked mine but Steve wasn´t so keen on his!....

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After the tour our guide made us a freshly roasted and brewed coffee which Steve loved - I HATE coffee but didn't like to admit it so I drank it anyway!

Next we headed to Salento, which is a tiny town up in the mountains, and had this lovely view from our bedroom window....

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It was a bit nippy up in the mountains for me so I dragged Steve down towards the Ecuadorian border to Popayan, where we chilled out for a couple of days before heading off to Ecuador. We stopped on the way to the border, at Ipiales, to see a church (Las Lajas) built on a bridge over a river.....

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I´m not really one for churches but this one was AMAZING, and it was the first time we´d seen indigeneous people so it was a really nice end to our Colombian travels!

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Posted by Steve-Kay 12:54 Archived in Colombia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Venezuela

Santa Elena to Merida

sunny 35 °C
View Honeymoon! on Steve-Kay's travel map.

The bus journey took 2 hours longer than planned because it broke down, but we eventually made it over the border and into Venezuela. We got a cab from the bus station into Santa Elena and then found out that none of the cashpoints worked with our card. Luckily, we had some 'emergency' dollars tucked away so our cabbie took us to a money changer on a street corner and we got some Bolivars (a relief for us and the cabbie I think!).

After talking to some people we realised that we'd been stupid to ignore some advice given to us previously, which was to take Brazilian Reals across to change on the black market for a much better rate than the official one given by banks. SO, we jumped into a taxi to the Brazilian border (where Steve got taken into a room and frisked by a scary policeman with a huge gun!) and got out all the Reals we could!

We then went back to Santa Elena and Steve haggled with about 10 dodgy money changers on the street until he got a decent rate from the bloke he'd met the day before. We didn't want to change the money on the street as we were changing so much, so we went inside a shop and counted out the 3250 Bolivars - they were all in 10's so we walked out of there with a HUGE wad of notes and spent the next hour trying to work out how to stash them in amongst our clothes!

We left there and headed up to the Caribbean coast (on yet another bus that broke down), to a place called Santa Fe. A small fishing village with a nice beach....

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And lots of Pelicans....

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We went on a boat trip to Parque Nacional Mochima and saw some gorgeous islands....

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On the way back loads of dolphins started swimming along with the boat. We've never seen so many dolphins at once before, there must have been about 20 of them and it was amazing. It was hard to capture them all in a photo because they were going in and out of the water at different times....

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Next we got a 5 hour ferry to Isla de Margarita (which had some lovely views along the way)....

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It left 3 hours late so by the time we got to Porlamar (the main town on Margarita) it was about 11pm and the area that we´d planned to stay in looked really dodgy. Our cabbie said his mate had a nice apartment in a good area that he could take us to, we were a bit dubious (not least of all because he seemed to be drunk) but we didn´t have many options at this stage! It turned out to be fantastic and after we´d had a nice cup of tea and our first HOT shower for a while, the stress of the journey disappeared...!

We stayed there for a few nights, even though it was costing us a fortune, enjoying the duty free wine and great food! Then we moved on to Pampatar and got a more basic apartment right on the beach....

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Unfortunately, most of the beaches we saw in Venezuela were pretty badly littered. Some locals tend to take a cold box full of beers down to the beach and chuck their empty bottles on the beach and in the sea. Not quite what we were expecting from the 'Caribbean' coast. So we left the island and headed down to the Andes.

The journey to Merida was long but the views were gorgeous and the city had a really nice feel to it - it was our favourite place in Venezuela....

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This is a small Andean village near to Merida, called Jaji....

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After months of thinking and talking about it, we finally decided to go to Colombia....Unfortunately, we missed the only bus of the day that was going there so we had to get a taxi instead....

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There are loads of really old American buses and cars in Venezuela, and some of the cabs we got in were literally falling apart! This one was a bit of a tight squeeze with Steve and me in the front with the driver, and a Venezuelan family in the back. There were loads of checkpoints along the way, where we handed over our passports and the other people handed over 5 Bolivar notes.....no comment on that one!

Posted by Steve-Kay 22:45 Archived in Venezuela Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Amazon Jungle Trip

Lake Mamori

sunny 30 °C
View Honeymoon! on Steve-Kay's travel map.

When we got to Manaus, we'd planned to get the bus straight out to Venezuela, but we bumped into an Amazon Jungle guide who ended up talking us into going on one of his trips instead!

The next morning they picked us up early and a bus, boat, another bus and another boat later we were at their jungle lodge which was really nice....

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We all slept in a big hut in hammocks with mozzie nets....

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On the first day we went piranha fishing. We caught loads but felt quite bad about it, although we did eat them so they didn't die in vain.....plus they would've eaten us if they'd got the chance! We thought they were quite small but everytime I got one the guide kept saying 'grande grande'! They were evil looking red things with very sharp teeth (obviously)! I would have got a photo of it but I accidentally drowned my poor camera and it stopped working!

That night, when it was pitch black, we went Caiman spotting and the guide scared the life out of us by saying 'some things might jump into the boat but don't jump or panic and fall in because the things in the water are much more dangerous than the things in the boat' - great! He spotted a small caiman just by the eyes glowing in the torch light and caught it before we even knew it was there - it looked just like a crocodile (not sure what the difference is?).

The next day we did a jungle trek and, I know this is obvious, there are A LOT of bugs in the Amazon Jungle! We had things biting us and flying into us all the time but we braved it out and it was excellent. The guide showed us lots of medicinal trees, including the 'Vicks' tree (now you know where that vapour rub comes from!).

This is Steve drinking from a tree root (photo's a bit on the blurry side)....

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This is a bird-eating tarantula which I thought was wicked but scared the life out of Steve!....

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At about 10pm that night we were chilling in the bar with a caipirinha when our guide came along and asked us if we wanted to go to a birthday party in a hut nearby....we did of course, so we drowned ourselves in insect repellent and off we went with our guide and some friends from our group. We pulled up in our canoe and clambered across the other boats 'parked' there to the hut....

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The decking outside was full to the brim with people drinking and dancing. We got ourselves a drink and all stood around a bit sheepishly at first, but the locals were very welcoming and they even dragged a few people inside to dance - not us though because their rule is that people who are married can only dance with eachother or relatives (well, we like to think that was the reason!).

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It didn't take long for us all to relax and soon we were in this little room strutting our stuff....

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We left there about 2.30am and our (drunk) boat driver just about managed to get us back to the lodge in the pitch black, narrowly avoiding driving us into the depths of the jungle along the way! The party went on for ages after we'd left and we could still hear the music when we got up for breakfast the next morning!

On the last day we went canoeing through the flooded forest (the water rises about 12 metres in some places around Lake Mamori during the wet season). It was very hard work to get through all the branches either overhead or under the water, plus loads of insects kept falling on us....yuk! We did see a family of Howler monkeys making their way through the trees though so it was worth it.

We also saw a massive wasps' nest hanging from a tree....

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After we got back from the trip we spent our final night in Brazil with the friends we'd met in the jungle, which was fantastic. Then we caught a bus to Venezuela the following day....

Posted by Steve-Kay 15:42 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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